1993-1997 Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision, and
Chrysler Concorde, New Yorker, and LHS
The original LH sedans were the first real test of two new concepts: design by cross-platform team, and cab-forward. While a team of young engineers went to Japan to study Honda's design team system, and Chrysler credited Honda with the idea, the new system had a stronger resemblance to AMC’s engineering methods — not surprising, given that the new head of engineering, Francois Castaing, hailed from AMC.
The result was a class-leading car designed and produced in just three and a half years, including a new engine. Acceleration was world class for the time, with automatic-transmission 0-60 of 8.8 seconds (3.5 liter) or 11.5 seconds (3.3 liter).
At the time the LH cars were introduced, Chrysler was selling what seemed like an endless variety of modified K-cars alongside its successful minivans, three Jeeps, and unsuccessful pickups. The company’s stock was in the basement, along with its reputation, and pundits were claiming the end was near. Suddenly, the Intrepid was introduced in the New York Times, and the world of Chrysler changed. The company could seemingly do no wrong until 1998; and the stock price tripled in the blink of an eye.
There has been some debate on whether the LH cars were based on the Eagle Premier, a Renault design modified by AMC engineers. Dan Minick noted that there were some interchangeable parts between the two designs; but Bob Sheaves and Dan Minick both wrote that, when François Castaing took over as VP of Engineering, the existing large-car design (which apparently owed a lot to the K-cars) was dropped. This vehicle, spearheaded by Hal Sperlich, had a transverse engine and was styled like a Dynasty, but 6.5 inches wider, with a 13 inch longer wheelbase.
Castaing suggested using the Premier/R25 chassis as a starting point for a new big car. Most everything was changed, but engineering-wise they started with the Premier; Hal Sperlich’s big transverse-engine car was abandoned.
Bob Sheaves noted that “the geometry is exactly the same for the suspension, and the packaging was derived from the Eagle Premiere. All of the suspension and drivetrain mules were Premiers also... The rear suspension is as described in the link provided, but with one addition...AMC recieved 2 patents on the torsion bar design. Chrysler developed longitudinal torsion bars into a high science, but the transverse bars of the M-body (when used in police service) had an annoying tendency to allow the front suspension to lose alignment whenever a curb was hit. The same engineer responsible for the M-body design corrected the problems on the Premier, in that the bars were "folded" together into a single, more compact design that was more rigid in bending and smoother riding, due to lower rate and greater travel.”
When the original LH was being designed, there was an LX platform that was configurable as AWD, FWD and RWD by swapping components around. Three LX prototypes with V8 engines and ZF AWD transaxles were remade as "Premier" police cars, and crashed on the TV series “Viper.”
The most popular LH car was the Dodge Intrepid, which was the least expensive model. The Eagle Vision had a more aggressive grille and a stiffer suspension, to compete with European sedans. The Chrysler Concorde had a softer suspension, in keeping with Chrysler's one-time luxury image. Engine availability differed among trim lines; the base engine was the 3.3 V6, at first producing 153 hp but later bumped to 161 (mainly through airflow improvements), and the 3.5 V6, designed specifically for the LH series and producing 214 hp on midgrade fuel. Both were multiple-port sequential fuel-injected gas engines.
The Plymouth Accolade was planned as a base model below the Intrepid; it would have been very similar. The name was consistent with the then-current Plymouth Acclaim, but the car was never approved.
"Stretched" LH cars came soon after the Intrepid, Concorde, and Vision. With another four inches of wheelbase added to the already-roomy cars, they had generous back seat space. The main differences between the two, both sold under the Chrysler name, were the firmer, more European ride of the LHS, and the softer, more luxury-oriented ride of the New Yorker.
When the New Yorker nameplate was retired at the end of the 1994 model year, along with the model it was attached to, it was the oldest nameplate in continuous use in America. It had been a somewhat confusing nameplate for years, sometimes being attached to two different bodies in the same model year.
Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision, and Chrysler Concorde suspension
The LH cars had a rigid body structure for crisp handling and a solid feel; long wheel travel helped in going over bumps without jarring. Low friction mountings and tall urethane jounce bumpers gave a smooth, progressive rate increase to reduce harshness, while a wide track stabilized handling by reducing lateral weight trasnfer. The longitudinal engine mounting with dual hydro-elastic powertrain mounts and a longer driveshaft minimized torque steer and aided ride quality.
The front suspension used struts with coil springs; cast iron lower control arms with steel tension struts controlled wheel movement. Suspension travel, over 7 inches worth, beat any Chrysler passenger car of the time by half an inch. Inverted cup-shaped upper strut mounts permitted travel over the body mounting point without hood bumps. A link-type stabilizer bar with double ball joints kept weight down.
The rear suspension was a multi-link Chapman strut system, named for the founder of Lotus; an upright strut included the shock absorber and a concentric coil spring, which connected to the wheel through a hub and to the body through a rubber isolator. Two transverse lower links per wheel provided toe adjustment; single trailing arms attached to the hub. A link-type stabilizer bar was also standard. This was the first multi-link suspension used on a Chrysler built car; it had travel of 8.5 inches, over half an inch better than any then-built Chrysler car.
Three levels of suspension tuning were available — base, touring, and performance — with Intrepid having all three, Concorde having all but performance, and Vision having all but base. The tires, spring rates, stabilizer bar diameters, bushings, and shock absorber damping were all adjusted for each level.
Power rack and pinion steering was standard, with a central takeoff point and equal-length tie rods; steering effort was matched to suspension tuning, getting firmer as performance rose. The ratio was always 17:1 and precision valving provided positive on-center feel. Wide rim wheels were standard (15 x 6, with 16 x 7 optional); steel was used for durability on base wheels, with optional cast aluminum or a plastic-face steel. Tires were one or two sizes larger than absolutely needed for better performance; base tires were selected partly for lower rolling resistance. All tire and wheel assemblies were dynamically balanced with weights as small as 0.125 ounces (vs the old .25 ounce minimum).
Chrysler LH advantages
The "cab-forward" design pushed the wheels out to the corners of the car, and made the engine compartment just large enough for the engine. That let the Intrepid and its brethren claim the largest interior space in its price class without being oversized on the outside.
A point of distinction of the LH models was the north-south/longitudinal mounting of the engines, which allowed Chrysler to lower the hoodline, made maintenance/servicing simpler, and tightened the car's turning diameter. The LHs’ wide track (the distance between the center points of the wheels), wider than the 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix, whose advertising tag line boasted "wider is better," helped cornering and interior space.
Other selling points were the largest interior space of its price class (by a good margin), a black-on-white instrumentation panel, dual airbags ahead of their time, and an award winning child seat built into the rear bench.
The Intrepid included a multitude of amenities in even the base model. Ride and handling were up to par with or better than the overseas competition. The Intrepid ES and Vision TSi also saw the first North American use of the "manu-matic" transmission with the introduction of Chrysler's AutoStick®.
The most common complaints were road noise and the lack of rear folding seats. Early LH models had some problems with transmissions, air conditioning, and weak headlights. A retrofit kit improved the headlights, and revisions to the transmission design and computer increased reliability and smooth shifting.
The first 1,000 LH sedans went into rental fleet service, mainly in Orlando but also in Denver, to test for problems; engineers were also sent to dealerships. Padgham wrote, "If any problems should develop, we'll have a 'lock' on the vehicle itself right at the dealerships. We're determined to have early diagnosis and feedback from the people who know these power- trains intimately."
Intrepids were used as police cars in isolated locations throughout the United States and Canada due to their room, speed, and handling, though there was no police package until the second generation. The Intrepid became popular among Toronto cabbies; Doug Miske wrote, “They cite the roominess, maneuverability, ride/handling, strong heating/air conditioning system (with rear venting), low maintenance costs, and better fuel economy over the Ford Crown Victoria as reasons for choosing the Intrepid.”
In 1993, a trade magazine wrote:
The 1993 Intrepid is brand new, from the ground up. Under the hood is a standard 153-hp V-6, with a remarkably flat torque curve. The result is power at practically any engine speed, from just above idle to just below redline. All six spark plugs are readily available. Hoses are marked with their part number and their function, a nice feature for home mechanics. There's no distributor, so there's less maintenance and hotter sparks. The fit and finish are unusually good, even under the hood.
The smooth ride and quiet interior are not unusual for luxury cars. What is unusual is the handling, which is superb and confidence-inspiring. There's no American luxury car wallowing through the corners. The four-speed transmission is smooth and sure, downshifting quickly and easily when needed. Although I prefer a stick-shift, the four-speed automatic is standard, as are four doors, two airbags, and air conditioning. (On the Eagle Vision, the 214 hp V-6 and traction control are standard). Acceleration is unusually smooth; on the Eagle, with traction control, it's even smooth when you slam on the gas from a gravel surface. There's a good combination of road feel and power assist from the steering.
The dashboard has unusual black-on-white instruments, which are easier to read than the reversed kind. All the controls are easily accessible. No rude surprises. Even with the seat as far up as it would go, my head was a couple of inches from the roof. The interior is spacious in the front or back, and the rear vents are a nice touch. Visibility is excellent; the windows are specially treated to keep heat out. The windshield wipers manage to cover almost the enormous windshield.
First Generation Chrysler LH Series Information at Allpar
- Main first-generation Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde / New Yorker / LHS, and Eagle Vision page
- Performance upgrades and common repairs
- Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde, and Eagle Vision styling development
- Climate control and engine cooling systems
- LH body shell and suspension: performance, comfort, and safety
- Interview about LH packaging and design with G. Glenn Gardner
- Interview about LH design with Francois Castaing
- Definition and advantages of cab forward (how cab forward was developed, and an interview with Tom Gale.)
- 80-mpg Intrepids: ESX and ESX-2
- Design and manufacturing process for the LH series: innovations in the engineering and involvement process
- Step-by-step guide to repairing the LH steering
- Step-by-step guide to replacing the hub and bearing
- Components: 3.3 liter and 3.5 liter V6 engines • Four-speed automatic transmission
- Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde/New Yorker/LHS, Eagle Vision Specifications